What if You Were the Mean Girl?

I wish today’s post was about that time I got made fun of for being too nice. But it’s not. Today’s post is about that time I was a mean girl.

A few years ago I wrote about frenemies and how I spent a lot of time in sixth grade trying to get and stay in good graces with the four popular girls in my class. I wrote about the day all four of those girls handed me hate notes and broke my adolescent heart. The main reason I wrote about that was to share about how I’d neglected a good friend in my pursuit of popularity.

But when a friend of mine – one of those popular girls I’d written about – found my blog (and that post) several months later, she focused on the hate note part of the post. She was appalled and apologetic – and admitted that she didn’t remember the incident at all.

I felt about two inches tall when I received her email – and wished so badly that I’d never written about the whole thing. It had hurt me, but nearly two decades later, I was obviously over it. To me, it was just a story. Granted, one that affected me deeply at the time and shaped me, but I hadn’t been upset about it in a very, very long time.

Three of those four girls became my true friends later on in high school, and I never thought about how they’d feel if they read my interpretation of that morning in middle school.

If only that were the end of the story. If only that blog post that maybe shouldn’t have been written were my only mistake.

Almost a year after my friend emailed me and said she was so sorry (and didn’t remember it, but was so sorry anyway), she emailed me again. She had remembered.

It turns out that my memory wasn’t exactly complete, and she told me the rest of the story.

The day before the hate note delivery, I had teased my friend about hair on her legs – something we were both sensitive about. It hurt her feelings, and her friends joined her in putting me in my place the next day.

I knew she was telling me the truth, because I’m sarcastic and I tease people – and sometimes I go too far. (Sadly, I could tell you more stories than this one to back up that confession.)

I don’t remember that first exchange at all, and she didn’t remember (at first) the next day’s confrontation. Neither of us were what you’d traditionally consider mean girls – not at all. But both of us deeply hurt the other with our words anyway.

My friend and I so deeply regretted our parts in the whole thing! It’s likely we regretted them immediately, but certainly as adults (and long-time friends), we so wished we could take it all back.

But that’s the thing about words, isn’t it? We can’t take them back, no matter how nice we normally are or how much we didn’t mean them after all.

My friend Annie Downs has written a book about making our words matter – for good. And I’m giving away three copies today.

Speak Love: Making Your Words Matter is about the power of our words. The book’s description says:

Through very funny stories, Scripture, and a real understanding of the good, bad, and ugly ways we can use our words, Annie Downs explores the difference you can make when you speak love to others, to God, and even to yourself. Because when you speak love, you speak life. And that’s what matters.

Speak Love is written for teen and college-aged girls. But even though my teen years were a long time ago, I’m looking forward to reading my copy (and hoping it’s in the mail today!) before passing it on to a teenaged friend. Today I’m giving away Speak Love to three readers – and you might want to read it, too . . . before giving it to someone in the book’s “real” demographic, of course!

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment telling me about a time when your words mattered. The giveaway will close at midnight on Monday, August 26.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt. This post contains affiliate links.

Getting Carded & Caring for My Friends

A few weeks ago one of my friends and I were chatting on Skype – like we do pretty much every day – and she said she felt like a bad friend.

I argued with her (LIKE A GOOD FRIEND), but she held her ground. She said she’d been thinking about how rarely she takes time to show her friends that she cares about them. So for the rest of the night, off and on, we brainstormed ideas for remedying the situation.

(Side note: “remedying”? Is that a word? I DON’T KNOW.)

Anyway, I suggested that she pick one day a week to do something nice for a friend. Just one thing for one friend one day a week. Easy enough, right?

But then I started thinking about how often I go out of my way to show my friends that I care about them. After all, I certainly don’t make it a point to reach out to a friend once a week. Maybe I’m not a good friend either!

I decided that I’m not a terrible friend, but while I make a point to get together with friends on a fairly regular basis, I don’t take time to connect with individual friends and tell them I love them. Girls night out? Done. Dropping a note in the mail to a friend who’s having a bad week? Well . . . notsomuch.

So what do I do about this? I can’t keep neglecting my friends. I love doing nice things, and I love my friends. I need to remedy this situation.

(YES. THAT is the right way to use that word.)

Enter Hallmark Cards.

Hallmark is hosting a Get Carded Challenge, a fun way for people to connect with seven loved ones in seven days – with a greeting card, of course.

This week – in between packing for a trip out of town and installing a thousand programs on my new laptop (woohoo!) – I’m sending cards to several friends to let them know I’m thinking of them, missing them, loving them and feeling thankful for their friendship.

Would you like to “Get Carded”? I’m giving away a 10-card pack of Hallmark greeting cards so you can tell your friends and family that you care about them, too. (You can also use the code BLOG30 at Hallmark.com for 30% off cards through the end of the year! Sweet!)

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment telling me either who you’d like to send a card to or how you show your friends you care about them. The giveaway will end at midnight CST on Friday, March 22.

Help me help you

The other day I got a text message from a friend. She needed someone to watch her daughter later that day for a couple hours, and she wondered if I could help her out.

I was so excited to get that message – and to say yes.

Was I excited because I love babysitting – or even my friend’s daughter in particular? Well, not really (although her daughter is a complete doll and super easy to watch for an evening). I was excited that someone was asking me for help, and I could help her. That simple.

Nobody likes to ask for help, right? It’s awkward and we feel needy and nobody wants to be a burden. But sometimes, well, sometimes we need help.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that in general I tend to make friends with women like me. Many of my friends are type A, organized, got it together [or at least look like they do] women. And as a rule, women like that (women like me) don’t like to ask for help.

We don’t want to bother anyone.
We don’t want to be “the needy friend.”
We don’t want to admit we can’t do it all.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my friends will leave me comments or send me emails telling me that they DO, in fact, have it all together all the time. But I don’t think so.

Since my husband has been working nights, I’ve been forced to ask for help several times. And every time, it feels awful. Partly because of the reasons I mentioned earlier – I don’t want to be a bother or appear so needy – but also because my friends don’t seem to ever need MY help in return.

I’m not saying that I feel like I owe my friends something if they help me. I know the women I call friends don’t keep score that way! But I honestly enjoy helping people I care about and am always thankful for the chance to do so. Helping a friend blesses me just as much as being helped by a friend.

Have your friends ever said things like, “If you ever need someone to watch your kids, let me know!” “Can I help?” “What can I do?” or “Let me know how I can help.” If you have friends who say things like that, thank God – and then take them up on those offers. Bless your friends by letting them help you!

By building walls and wearing masks and refusing to admit we need help, much less ask for or accept it, we’re shortchanging ourselves and our friends. We’re trading authentic friendship and rich relationships for smoke and mirrors and false pretenses of perfection.

Let’s not do that.

Let’s ask for help when we need it and accept help when it’s offered. And, of course, let’s help each other when our friends are brave enough to ask.

When was the last time you had to ask for help?

This post is part of 31 Days of Giving Up on Perfect, because helping each other is way better than looking perfect and standing alone. All month long, I’ll be writing about my fight against perfectionism and my quest to get on with life, already. For more 31 Days, visit The Nester.

Craving Community (and not {just} the TV show)

Last spring three sitcoms debuted around the same time. Of the three, only one received the coveted full season renewal, and unless you’re a TV fanatic like me, you’ve probably already forgotten the other two – if they even crossed your radar at all.

The reason only one could survive and – in many minds – the shows were indistinguishable is simple: all three were about a small group of friends in their late 20s and 30s who hung out together day in and day out as, of course, hilarity and hijinks ensued.

As my friends (and husband) will tell you, I watch too much television. So it’s no surprise that I can name half a dozen shows that feature groups of friends hanging out all the time without even stopping to put down my remote.

Honestly, though, that’s not just a commentary on the way I spend my leisure (and laundry) time; it’s also a commentary on what we, as a society, are craving.

We crave community.

I recently read an article that asked, “Why Do the Sitcoms We Love Have So Little in Common with the Lives We Lead?” When I spotted that headline in my Google Reader, I assumed the post was about aliens, zombies and the ubiquitous vampires. (Or, perhaps the forensics lab that solves crimes in 43 minutes or less.)

Instead, the authors pondered the portrayal of friends on television and the vast differences we see in our own lives. Even if you frequent a coffee shop, diner or bar, I’m guessing you don’t spend hours there every day, chatting with your friends like the casts of Friends, Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother. And while many of us socialize with co-workers or classmates on occasion, most of us don’t do it to the extremes of the folks on Parks & Recreation or Community.

So why is it that our favorite shows are about people who live like this, episode after episode? I think it’s because the ensemble comedy is today’s fairytale. Whether we realize it or not, we dream of having a place where everybody knows our name, our breakfast order, our business.

For those of us who went to college, those days in the dorms are likely the last time we experienced such close proximity and intimacy with a group of people. After all, it’s kind of hard to avoid it when you’re swapping clothes and snacks, studying on each other’s futons and sharing a bathroom. In that kind of environment, you naturally do the thing that so many churches today are advocating: you do life together.

It might mean you’re never alone, but there’s always someone to eat dinner with.

You might get woken up early or late (or all the time), but you don’t hesitate to pick up the phone when you need to talk to someone (or get a ride home) at midnight.

And diverse as your backgrounds and majors may be, the fact that you are experiencing so many of the same highs and lows (and common enemies . . . like finals and “Premium Night” in the cafeteria) removes all those barriers to allow solid friendships to form in a blink-of-the-eye amount of time.

Now that we’re grown-ups with bills and jobs and families and bathrooms of our own, it’s so much harder to cultivate the kind of community we had back then – or the kind of friendships we see on TV every night.

Making friends as an adult is hard. Maintaining friendships is just as hard, if not even more difficult. We’re busy. They’re busy.

But wouldn’t it be worth it? I mean, what if the oft-quoted passage of Acts 2 wasn’t just an old story or modern fairytale about grown-up life?

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44-46)

I’m not sure how to make it happen. Or how to make it happen very quickly. I can’t very well force the other preschool moms or the couples in my small group to eat a meal with me every single day or to hang out with me at the Central Perk every afternoon (perhaps during naptime…?).

What can I do to foster this community I’m craving, then? Mark and I have been talking about this a lot lately. We miss having the close kind of friends who are all up in our business because we really are living our lives side by side. So far, we’ve only resolved to invite people over for dinner or out to lunch a couple times a month.

Baby steps, you know.

Help me out, friends. How are YOU creating community – real, authentic, got-your-back, know-your-kids, love-you-even-on-grumpy-days community?

Another great way I’m hoping to create some community is with (in)RL. If you live in Kansas City, I hope you’ll join me in Riverside on April 28. If not, find another meetup close to you!

The sound of my soul

I will miss commercials when I get a DVR. I can still watch them, right? I just have the option to skip them? Tell me I don’t have to give up [good] commercials.

Yes, I’m aware that’s really weird. So is using a VCR in 2012. Shut up.

I saw this one a few nights ago and loved it for so many reasons.

  1. That car guy? Is just like my husband. (He hates retro music and loves talking cars. “It’s important.”)
  2. Those friends having a good time, singing their hearts out? They seem fun. I want to hang out with them.
  3. I recognized the celebrity voice-over before my husband, even though recognizing celebrity voice-overs is kind of his superpower.
  4. I used to have a Chevy Malibu. I don’t know anything about its brakes, but I loved that it had lots of cup holders and both a tape deck and a CD player. I know. Big surprise.
  5. It made me think about all the times I’ve sung along to cheesy songs with my own friends.

Case in point: Smitty and I broke into “Ice, Ice Baby” last Friday night as we cooked dinner. Yes, we do know all the words.

What songs do you sing with your friends?